Special Damages Definition

A term that comes up most often in personal injury lawsuits, "special damages" (or "economic damages") refers to monetary recovery (compensation) for the kinds of injuries or harm that can usually be captured by an exact dollar value.

After a car accident, for example, an injured claimant's special damages might include:

  • the cost of medical care necessary to treat their injuries (even when this treatment is covered by health insurance)
  • time missed at work (including vacation time and PTO used by the injured claimant) and other forms of lost income
  • compensation for future earnings that will be lost because of the claimant's injuries, and
  • any other out-of-pocket losses that can be tied to the claimant's injuries.

In contrast to special damages, "general damages"—the other main category of damages in a personal injury case—are more subjective to the injured claimant and aren't easily quantified by a dollar amount.